The price of freedom is never free.
It’s something that resonates with nearly everyone who has put on the uniform to serve Canada in troubled places around the world.
Justin McKay stands in front of park in Amherst that will be home to a new monument honouring the 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. The monument will be unveiled on Sept. 23. Darrell Cole – Municipality of Cumberland photo
With that comes the duty to remember those didn’t return. It’s the driving force behind a memorial being erected in Amherst adjacent to town hall. The memorial, in a park on the corner of Victoria and LaPlanche Streets, will include a monument bearing the names of the 158 Canadian soldiers killed during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan.
The Municipality of Cumberland is a sponsor of the project.
“For me, it’s all about closure. I served with 11 of those people whose name are on the monument starting in 2002 with the friendly fire incident,” said Municipality of Cumberland Deputy Mayor Mark Joseph, who served in Afghanistan between October 2009 and May 2010. “There are a lot Afghan veterans in Cumberland County that support this project and I’m one of them.”
The park will include a walkway and benches with the monument, and the names of those lost in Afghanistan, facing Victoria Street. It’s also next to the North Nova Scotia Highlanders Mural.
“I believe it’s going to look amazing,” said Joseph, who served with the First Battalion, Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, rising to the rank of warrant officer. “To have a picture of the forward operating base at Masum-Ghar on the monument is very special because that was the gateway to the Panjwayi district where a lot of Canadians lost their lives.”
More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan between 2001 and March 2014. Along with 158 soldiers, seven civilians were also killed – including a diplomat, four aid workers, a government contractor and a journalist. More than 2,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were injured while countless more continue to struggle with PTSD from their experiences there.
Joseph said he was approached by Justin McKay about the project and was very supportive of the effort from the very beginning.
The monument will include the names of the 158 Canadian soldiers who lost their lives during Canada’s mission to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014. Contributed
McKay, who served as a corporal with the Second Battalion Princess Patricians Canadian Light Infantry, approached Amherst more than a year ago wanting to do something recognize the armed forces members who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
“I worked with 12 to 15 guys who were killed in Afghanistan. They were all PPCLI in Winnipeg or Shilo and there are a lot of guys in the county who knew people who were lost,” McKay said. “First World War, Second World War and Korea veterans have cenotaphs, these guys don’t.”
While they could not be included on the cenotaph in Victoria Square, using the vacant parkland next to town hall was selected and the fundraising effort began. McKay said approximately $34,000 has been raised in the community with contributions from both Amherst and Cumberland and the province.
This is one of the first Afghan war memorials in the province.
The monument will be unveiled during a ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 1:30 p.m. featuring a colour party and pipe band and parade from Lawrence Street to the monument.
There will also be several activities at Branch 10 of the Royal Canadian Legion, including a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m., a guided motorcycle ride at 9 a.m., a barbecue with the 154 Anson Royal Canadian Air Cadets and the 258 Amherst Royal Canadian Sea Cadets at 11:30 a.m. and a dance at the legion, featuring Derailed 2.0, at 8 p.m.
A copy of the painting, Portraits of Honour, will also be on display at the legion throughout the day.